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Grateful to Be Alive

Monday, Nov 23, 2015
Sue Moll

This Doylestown Hospital volunteer looks at life a little differently since having life-saving heart surgery.

Sue Moll didn't know how sick she really was.

The 66-year-old retired school teacher from Doylestown basically felt fine, but her doctor suggested she have a stress test to see how her heart was doing. She had a strong family history of heart disease. No female before Sue had lived past 68 years of age.

On June 12, 2015 Sue never finished that stress test at the Health and Wellness Center in Warrington. Sue went instead to Doylestown Hospital's Emergency Department.

"I felt fine," recalled Sue. "I kept saying, 'I'm fine'."

Doctors heard a heart murmur, and an echocardiogram showed something was wrong. In fact, Sue's heart function was less than 20 percent.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Joseph Auteri, MD was called in to the case. He told Sue she needed a new heart valve. Sue asked if the procedure could wait until winter so she could enjoy the summer.

"We were concerned given how weak her heart had become that she should have surgery quickly to allow the heart to possibly recover," said Dr. Auteri. "We didn't feel it was safe to wait."

The open-heart surgery would take place in two days on Monday, June 15.

Sue had a condition called aortic stenosis. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Blood flows out of the heart and into the aorta through the aortic valve. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart. In Sue's case, the aortic stenosis was present from birth (congenital). Her body had grown accustomed to compensating for the condition, but it no longer could sustain her.

Thinking back, Sue recalled the time in April when she fainted. Her jaw would hurt when she took long walks. But she felt fine enough to do the things she enjoyed, like strolling around a flea market or visiting family in North Carolina, which she had done in May.

She soon realized the seriousness of her situation.

"When I heard what my condition was, I assumed it might be the end," said Sue.

Following successful aortic replacement surgery, Sue stayed at Doylestown Hospital for five days. The cardiac experts from the Heart Institute were helpful and comforting. Sue witnessed the collaboration every step of the way.

"It is a team," she said. "I felt well taken care of."

Sue participated in cardiac rehabilitation at Doylestown Hospital following her procedure.

"I'm grateful to be alive," said Sue. "I'm grateful to be able to see my kids and my granddaughter, and just to enjoy life."

Sue and her husband, Jim, have two sons. The family and friends supported Sue throughout her experience. Late last summer, Sue and Jim threw a party for about 50 people who were with Sue every step of the way.

Sue started volunteering in the snack bar at Doylestown Hospital about two years ago. She returned to her position following her recovery.

Sue says she never had chest pain, but not everyone with a heart condition feels chest pain. The jaw pain Sue felt is another symptom and one that women may have more often than men. She urges women to take any unusual symptoms seriously and to follow the guidance of their doctors.

"If I had not gone for that stress test, I would have died," said Sue.

The experience caused Sue to appreciate the simple things in life, and not to worry about the little things.

"I think the experience changes your attitude," said Sue. "Like when we're driving in traffic, I don't get upset like I used to. My values have changed. I'm just so thankful my family is happy and healthy."

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